CLOSE, a 2019 Netflix original, starts off with a heart-pounding scene of protagonist Sam (Noomi Rapace) defending a group of innocents against a squadron of hitmen. This thrilling scene is followed by a polychromatic title sequence emulative of those famous James Bond openings.
This fantastic opening is the most interesting and fun portion of this film, as it swiftly goes downhill from there. With a nauseous color palette of oranges and greens mixed with gloomy dark lighting, atrocious acting, and a boring story, CLOSE misses its mark.
Spoiled brat Zoe (Sophie Nélisse) is named heiress to a billion-dollar empire after her father’s death. Her stepmother Rima (Indira Varma) fears for Zoe’s safety and sends her to a safe house, along with her new bodyguard Sam, one who “she can’t fuck” like her previous security detail. Zoe is dumb and selfish; Sam is a no-nonsense bodyguard who has to care for her. There is space here for these two opposite characters to hit the expected odd-couple story beats, but not even the most basic character growth happens in CLOSE.
Part of the reason for this is the acting. Sophie Nélisse as Zoe is noticeably amateurish and flat. She attempts to cry twice and doesn’t produce any tears—both times. Noomi Rapace has her moments of cringeworthy acting as well. They both deliver sloppy performances peppered with poor line readings, awkward pauses, and flat-out bad takes, an issue that more precise direction and sharper editing surely could have solved.
The editing and direction are crucial aspects of this movie’s many shortcomings. The decision to leave in, just as one example, a drawn-out scene of Sam smoking a cigarette in real time while shaking and crying is an odd choice. A scene so long requires emotional depth and layered character work that CLOSE just does not deliver. There are many such scenes that linger too long on a character’s face, and for an action movie, scenes like this just bog down the production even further.
In fairness to the actors, the dialogue they have to work with does a lot of showing, not telling. The action grinds to a halt every time it’s time for characters to express their emotions with deadpan clichés like, “I’m sorry…about your friend,” or “It’d be a shame if something happened to your daughter.” At one point, Zoe shouts “You shut me out!” at Sam, her bodyguard who she has known for two days.
I could sit here all day and nit-pick all the little details of CLOSE that make this film feel so unloved. Because aside from all the key issues, there are smaller creative choices that detract from the movie. The makeup around Sam’s facial lesions not matching her skin color is very distracting. There is a secondary character named Conall (Eoin Macken) who wears the same exact shirt and hairstyle in all of his scenes, even though they take place on different days, in very different environments. Minutia like this pile onto the already glaring structural issues of the movie.
Nothing in this saturnine movie sparks joy; none of the characters have depth or personality. CLOSE has an appropriate amount of guns, technology, explosions, fist-fights, and high stakes to call it a proper action movie. The team behind the film is already hinting towards sequels involving Sam, and I have hope that with a little more TLC behind the scenes, the franchise could prosper. If action movies with surface level characters and uninspired shootouts appeal to you, then Netflix has got your number.